Acronis CEO Brings Life of Science to ChannelAcronis CEO Brings Life of Science to Channel
The cloud backup vendor’s $200 million-plus annual revenue represents a fraction of the potential its founder envisions for the firm he started in 2003.
December 12, 2016
Serguei Beloussov’s entrepreneurial acumen traces back to his days as a boy in the Russian city now-known as St. Petersburg, during a time in the USSR when being a clever young businessman was hardly encouraged.
“Being entrepreneurial, there was no such word in the Soviet Union as ‘entrepreneurial,’” he said. “If he’s entrepreneurial, he’s probably going to be in jail soon.”
In those days, Beloussov just wanted a way to pay for fishing equipment. He found a brisk business in hand-made bow and arrow sets, and wild west-themed toy soldiers, fashioned with molded lead and tin he recycled from old batteries.
Other times, he’d charge 10 Rubles each for the inexpensive film cameras that were typically given out as prizes for winning science olympiads all over Russia.
“I had like 15 of those cameras,” recalled Beloussov, now 45.
Fast-forward to 2016. Beloussov, a naturalized citizen of Singapore and the child of physics professors, is the creator of companies that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue and have become crucial players in the channel.
He says he doesn’t consider himself obsessed with the art of business, for its own sake.
“Are you interested in life, is that why you’re living?” he asked rhetorically. “I didn’t think a lot about business. I thought I needed money to buy fishing equipment and I needed money to buy toys.”
The Odin Automation Platform for cloud services, technology he sold last year to Ingram Micro, started as a tool for telecoms and is now seeing growing adoption by managed services providers (MSPs).
Other holdings include virtualization firm Parallels; Runa Capital, an early stage venture capital firm with stakes in more than 40 tech firms; and QWave Capital, billed as the first investment fund for quantum technologies.
Beloussov is quick to declare that cloud backup and storage firm Acronis is his primary focus.
Nonetheless, asked which of his $100 million-plus endeavors is his most successful, Beloussov replied: “None is very successful,” he said. “They are good but not great.”
The more than $200 million Acronis takes in yearly represents only a fraction of the potential Beloussov envisions for the firm he started in 2003.
“Acronis is like a bronze medal,” he said, likening his companies to Olympic competitors. “This is the one I want to turn into a gold medal.”
‘Winning’ at science
Despite masters’ degrees in engineering and physics, and a PhD in computer science, Beloussov said he somewhat backed into mathematics and physics.
“I actually didn’t want to be in math and physics,” he said. “I wanted to be an expert on the human brain. In 1984, it wasn’t entirely clear back then that you were going to need math and physics to work on the brain.”
By the time he was 14, his parents steered him toward a top boarding school for boys, with a curriculum focused on math, physics, chemistry and other sciences. At that time in the pre-Glasnost Soviet Union, students interested in attending such schools had to score well on a battery of rigorous exams.
Competition was intense – about 700 applicants for about three-dozen slots.
Beloussov was admitted and quickly realized an aptitude for science olympiad competitions – first locally, then across Russia.
“I just started winning,” he said.
By many measures, Beloussov has been winning ever since.
He’s started and sold myriad companies, including one software vendor that ended up in the portfolio of Microsoft. He sits on boards of universities in Moscow and Singapore.
When he’s not working, Beloussov said he enjoys red wine and a book. For fun, he said, “I do science.”
These days, his 650-person company is laser-focused on helping MSPs to succeed under increasingly competitive market conditions.
“I think we are at the time where channel is becoming less important for some of the big guys,” he said. “Channel is under sort of a pressure.”
A key reason the channel exists, Beloussov asserts, is to address work that couldn’t easily be automated. More and more, he said, major vendors are seeking – and finding – ways to go around the channel.
Singapore-based Acronis, on the other hand, is positioned to help solution providers to automate, find efficiencies and grow margins, the CEO said.
“We need to provide tools for the channel to add (services) and be fully automated and to offer a superior experience,” he said. “At a time when many companies are not friendly to the channel, we are friendly to channel.”
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